cooks at home
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Alicia Barr creates a fulfilling life in Truckee.
WRITTEN BY SUE EDMONDSON
PHOTOS BY CANDICE NYANDO
Alicia Barr isn’t afraid to test her limits. She credits this to advice received from a friend during her “former life” at Hewlett Packard.
“He said I had so many options at HP, if I was willing to step outside my comfort zone to take on a challenge,” Barr says. “I realized that the advice applies to life. Anything can happen when you do.”
Starting with dessert
For those who know Barr, it’s no surprise the advice resonated — she’s done the unexpected since childhood, when she fell in love with baking. She’s always tweaked recipes — the evidence being a chocolate cake recipe card so full of notations that the original recipe is barely visible. Beyond the kitchen, she’s a champion athlete who earned a master’s degree in biomechanical engineering from Stanford University while working full time at HP, where she co-created patented designs.
Eight years into her career, Barr and husband, Andy (an electrical engineer she met at HP), decided to leave comfortable corporate life.
“We didn’t just want to be cogs in the wheel,” she says. “And we wanted to live in a community where we could know our neighbors and make a difference.”
Truckee fit the bill. How they’d earn a living became the question.
An idea brewed
“We were avid travelers before our daughter, Sofia, was born, and we’d always stop at the local brewpub to get a feel for the area,” she says. “When we moved to Truckee, there were no brewpubs in North Tahoe. We love food. We love beer. Even though we had no restaurant or brewing experience, we said, ‘Why not us?’”
Luckily, the craft beer business wasn’t totally uncharted territory for the experienced baker.
“Baking and brewing are actually similar. Both involve science and art,” she says. “Each undergoes a chemical process, and fundamental ingredient proportions make yeast rise or beer ferment. The art is creating the right flavors and adding subtle touches.”
Their restaurant and craft brewery, FiftyFifty Brewing Co., opened in 2007. Thanks to hard work and the right combination of science and art, the brewery produces multiple award-winning brews.
When space nearby became available in 2009, the couple opened a sushi/noodle/seafood restaurant, Drunken Monkey. Barr smiles when asked why take on another business.
“We like sushi, but, more importantly, the kitchen had room for a large refrigerator we desperately needed for our beer!” she says.
Public service ranks highly in their crazy-busy schedules. Barr has served on Truckee’s Town Council since 2012 and spent 2015 as Truckee’s mayor. Andy is a Rotarian who sits on Tahoe Forest Hospital’s orthopedic advisory board.
At home, cooking healthy meals is Barr’s priority. Ingredients reflect those used in her restaurants — fresh, natural, and, when possible, organic and locally sourced. As with baking, when Barr cooks, there’s tinkering involved. A favorite fruit salsa changes with every season.
Of course, beer often accompanies dinner. But it’s not on the menu every night.
Barr laughs. “When Andy and Sofia have a daddy-daughter cooking night,” she says, “I sit on the couch with a book and a good glass of wine.”
Freelance writer Sue Edmondson has written for various publications in Northern Nevada and Northern California. She’s amazed by how Barr juggles dozens of obligations as easily as making fruit salsa.
Roasted Garlic and Pepper Quesadillas with Mango Salsa
(courtesy of Alicia Barr, owner FiftyFifty Brewing and Drunken Monkey in Truckee. Serves 4)
8 6-inch flour tortillas
1 3/4 cups Jack cheese, grated
1 garlic head
1 Anaheim or poblano pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
Roast garlic and peppers at 400 degrees F on top rack of oven until tender (20 to 30 minutes). Immediately put pepper into plastic bag. Let cool, then rinse and remove skin. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Separate garlic cloves and peel. Cut large cloves in half.
Heat oil in large frying pan on medium heat. Reserving 4 tablespoons of cheese, divide remaining cheese among 4 tortillas, spreading it to cover tortilla. Top each with 1/4 of peppers and garlic. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon cheese, then top with tortilla. Cook quesadillas for a few minutes until tortillas start to brown, then flip and cook until cheese is melted and tortillas slightly brown.
Serve with the mango salsa, fresh avocado, FiftyFifty Spring Fever Golden Ale or CAPA (California Pale Ale) and Stout Chocolate Cake for dessert.
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 ripe pear (or other fruit in season), peeled and diced
1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Fresh lime juice
Combine first 6 ingredients and add lime juice to taste. Ideally, refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving to meld flavors.
Stout Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
(courtesy of Alicia Barr, owner FiftyFifty Brewing and Drunken Monkey in Truckee. Serves 12 to 16)
1 ounce semi- or bittersweet chocolate
½ cup FiftyFifty Totality Imperial Stout or other stout beer
¾ cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease and flour 9-by-9-inch baking dish.
Finely chop chocolate. Heat stout in small saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add chocolate to stout and stir until smooth.
In large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, beat egg until thick and lemon colored (about 2 to 3 minutes). Slowly add melted butter, milk, vanilla, and chocolate stout mixture to egg, beating until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until just combined.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
Beat ingredients together in mixer, adding milk to desired consistency/thickness.